Layoffs have severely affected the Ministry of Education’s ability to provide proper maintenance to primary schools across the island.
Minister of Education and Technological and Vocational Training Santia Bradshaw made the declaration today in Parliament, saying that a lack of manpower was partly to blame for the current conditions of some of the schools.
Her comments made in the Well of the House Assembly came even as parents of students at Milton Lynch Primary School staged a protest outside of the school’s premises over what they claim to be unsatisfactory conditions.
Parents claimed that teachers and students had been falling ill at the school. They blamed those sicknesses on the presence of rats, monkeys, cow-itch and birds and called for a thorough cleaning of the school.
However, Bradshaw indicated that cleaning of that school begun over the weekend.
“Regrettably, I am apologizing to the country because people do not fully understand the magnitude of the issues we are dealing with and I do not want any student, or teacher, or principal, or administrator to be operating in the conditions in which they operate . . .
“So if you take the issue with the Milton Lynch School that is making the headlines, work has been started over the weekend in relation to the power washing of the premises.
“As to whether the work was done in the most effective manner may be questionable, but at this stage, work was started and I am aware of a schedule to continue to do those works in relation to the school,” the Minister said.
She disclosed that Government may have to look to offer part-time contracts to help clean the schools.
“As a result of the BERT [Barbados Economic Recovery and Transition] programme we had to remove the general workers from several of the institutions. Currently we are obviously grappling with an issue in terms of human resources within the various school plants,” Bradshaw explained.
“I know that within the budgets of the primary schools, principals still have an allocation of resources to be able to get some things done on the premises, but what we have been looking at is a scenario where we will be able to offer some short-term maintenance contracts to engage persons to be able to zone the areas across the schools so individual operators are responsible for different properties.”
Bradshaw also explained that because of the nature of some of the cleaning, there were challenges in getting that work done during the week when students and staff were present.
She said as a result, work would have to be done mainly on weekends.
“One of the biggest challenges that we’ve been having is that when you are attempting to cut the grass or do anything which is going to require teachers or students to be affected . . . . when you have people engaged during the day time, five days a week, Monday to Friday, [the work] has been challenged and in some cases not done, because obviously you have to make accommodation for respiratory illnesses.
“I think the solution therefore is to have persons engaged on Saturdays and Sundays to conduct a lot of those types of works in terms of the exterior of the plant,” Bradshaw said.